Dalvin Cook Wants New Contract

Minnesota Vikings start running back Dalvin Cook is unhappy with the lack of a contract extension and per ESPN’s Adam Schefter is ready to sit out until the Vikings make a “reasonable” offer.

Cook could put himself in a dangerous position if he actually does fail to report to training camp because that would cost him an accrued season toward free agency leaving him as a restricted rather than an unrestricted free agent following the season.

For some players this is a harmless distinction. For example if Aaron Donald wound up as a RFA the market would be so robust for him that even with a first round pick as the return the Rams would have risked losing him. For players of that stature they would wind up on the franchise tag even if they were a RFA.

Cook, however, is a running back. The market is not robust for those players and it is doubtful that a team would make an offer for Cook regardless of what designation the Vikings would use if things ever got that far. The franchise/transition tags this year for running backs were $10.3M/$8.5M while the most expensive RFA tag was $4.6 million. Technically the Vikings could use the draft at original round tender which was just $2.025 million this year. So the potential of a bad outcome for Cook would be much higher here than for many other players.

Cook is coming off a career defining season in which he ran for 1,135 yards and added over 500 receiving yards en route to a Pro Bowl season. The kind of year he had would compare with those of the few players earning over $13 million a year.

The market for running backs remains fragmented however and the high end outcomes are often hard to obtain. This is often a game of chicken between two sides. The teams who have caved in have typically regretted it but avoided holdouts and unhappy players. Those players who landed in free agency ended up with far less lucrative contracts than initially expected and lose out with the holdout or refusal to accept a lower offer.

Right now the market for a free agent running back tops out around $8 million which is what Melvin Gordon received from the Broncos on a two year deal. Gordon held out last season after turning down a contract offer from the Chargers that was reportedly in the ballpark of $10 million a year. That $10 million number is probably the number that would make sense for a team like the Vikings. Anything more than that is probably not in their best interest for the long term.

The Vikings would need to weigh the short vs long term benefits of an extension as well. The team is going through a bit of a rebuild which would lead me to believe they were planning on leaning heavily on Cook this season, but if they do not view themselves as a title contender would it be worth sinking three big cap years into a running back? Its different than in Dallas or LA where the running back were considered key cogs on a team that expected to win the division and compete for the Super Bowl.

Teams are not exactly forking over money right now due to a variety of circumstances so this may end up just being much ado about nothing with the sides coming to an agreement around the start of camp.